to the world’s poor and succeeds in helping people who are in desperate need. As an adult, this
book is on Gwen’s desk, a constant reminder that she needs to use her power and her wishes to
help the world. After the Gwen Araujo trials, Gwen Smith wasn’t sure if she could continue her
activism work. She took time to focus on her column, Transmissions.
She credits high school Dungeons and Dragons as the beginning of her writing career, in
which she could, “Craft stories and share them, find out what other people would add to them by
playing the adventures.” The game allowed her to have other players expand on what she created
and then would go in directions she hadn’t imagined, which taught her early on that paradigms
are all different.
In 2010, her essay, “We’re all Someone’s Freak,” was included in Gender Outlaws: The
Next Generation (Bornstein and Bergman). In the essay, she contemplates a situation in which a
friend of hers requests she keep her transgender identity a secret (Bornstein and Bergman 27).
Every essay she writes manages to transform an indignation into a neat, pointed, invitation to
practice more empathy. She has had essays published in Baltimore Gay Life, Between the Lines,
Philadelphia Gay News, Washington Blade, New York Blade, Dallas Voice, Houston Voice, The
Advocate, Huffington Post, and Transgender Tapestry.
She works on her ongoing Remembering Our Dead Project in a more streamlined way
than when it began with library visits in the late ‘90s. Now, she learns about new cases via social
media or an email from friends or associates. She describes her process to me plainly:
Via social media or email from friends and associates, I'll hear about a potential case, such as
the recent ones in New Orleans. I'll start combing for more information, digging through
Facebook and elsewhere to find any "on the group" mentions. I'll try to find a name and other
information, and start checking local area media. I can usually start making an educated guess
based on the social media information and experience about a given case being reported in the
mews, as most do not signify that the victim was trans in initial reports (and often misgender,
though the "better ones" tend to avoid gender signifiers). From there I look for name (preferred
and aka, but not "deadname" unless it's all I have), age, date of death, and location of death.
That will go on site and on social media: I'll usually tweet something that looks like: Alphonza
Watson, 38 years old. Shot and killed in Baltimore, MD on 22March. http://vbly.us/2qqa #TDOR
#trans
While we were interviewing for this book, four trans women of color were murdered.
After news of this hit, her spirits were low. Every phone call we have is a ritual. We always
begin with, “How are you?” and “How has your week been?” When she was low, she would
respond, “I’m not unwell.” Making it clear that she is physically okay, but not upbeat and
cheerful. One day, I asked her, “Are you ever afraid?” Referring to the possibility that she herself
could be killed for being, as she says, “professionally transgender.” She told me, “I can live in
fear or I can live my life. Living a life is generally a better thing. It’s about how you negotiate.”
If she is afraid, she doesn’t show me fear, only passion and patience.
A touch stone for us is Harry Potter. I may not understand how AOL worked, and she
may not understand how she came to spend every Sunday at 1 pm on the phone with me, but we
both understand the universe of Harry Potter. We both wish, for different reasons, that we had
received letters at age eleven and had been whisked off to learn magic. I ask her what her
patronus would be. For people unfamiliar with this term, it is a defensive spell in the Potter
Universe that uses a person’s happiest memories to protect them. She thinks for a second and
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